Business Aviation and Communities – Business Breeds Business
This is a post by guest author Richard Zaher of Paramount Business Jets. Richard was asked to contribute to our business aviation blog because of his experience in charter operations. Any thoughts expressed below are entirely Richard’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Universal Weather and Aviation, Inc.
All across America there is a huge network of business aircraft helping ensure the smooth running of thousands of companies: not only major companies, but also plenty of small- to medium-sized operations. Business aviation is absolutely essential to the business community on a day-to-day basis, and a quick look at the latest findings from the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) confirms this with some surprising statistics.
It’s a common misconception that the majority of aircraft are run by major corporations for whom there are large budgets dedicated to corporate flight department travel, but this is simply not the case. Astonishingly, according to the NBAA 2014 Business Aviation Fact Book, 59% of companies operating business aircraft employ fewer than 500 staff members; 70% employ fewer than 1,000. When conglomerates are in the minority, it indicates that business aviation is not only for the upper echelons of the business world but also for more modest outlets. In fact, only 3% of business aircraft are flown by Fortune 500 companies, as stated in the NBAA 2014 Business Aviation Fact Book.
Because of the purpose of business aircraft, they needn’t necessarily be overly indulgent or large. Of course there are a number of larger planes in operation for business purposes, but the vast majority seat a maximum of just six passengers. This makes them physically smaller, lighter, and cheaper to operate, helping cut costs and increase profit for the companies they serve. It is precisely this adaptability which helps them serve their purpose, reaching areas that commercial aircraft simply couldn’t reach.
In the U.S. there are approximately 500 commercial airports in operation. These are the most common and popular airports you are familiar with. There are also over 5,500 (more than 11 times as many) airports used primarily for business aircraft. These numbers demonstrate how important business aviation is to the economy. Again, smaller business aircraft can access harder-to-reach places and physically land closer to final destinations.
Business flights are not only better suited in terms of geography, but they provide significant benefits when it comes to reliability. Anybody who has flown commercially knows that any flight can be delayed or, worse, cancelled at any time. Most airlines offer some kind of reimbursement for passengers whose flights are disrupted, but that doesn’t compensate for business. There is no telling what knock-on effects or repercussions would be from a delayed shipment, package, or employee. Of all commercial flights, 3% are cancelled, and more are delayed. In business aviation these numbers are reduced to such minimal figures that they hardly factor into consideration.
Using aircraft specifically for business actually breeds business in itself. The flexibility of business aviation allows for meetings to be rescheduled, emergency transportation of sensitive documents or products, and in general increases the pace at which business can operate. It has become a vital component of business at a fundamental level.
Another common misconception is that business aircraft are a luxury geared more toward flaunting a company’s financial muscle than toward achieving solid business goals, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Remarkably, studies indicate that employees feel they are more productive aboard aircraft than in their own offices. Also, the intimate space leads to eight times as much collaboration among co-workers as would occur on a commercial plane, debunking the myth that such aircraft are a playground for executives. In reality the unique setting is proven to be a hotbed of business activity.
While it is clear that business aircraft provide a flexible service tailored to clients’ needs and are an invaluable addition to the assets of any aspiring company, how are they so affordable?
It is true that most companies that use business aviation services own their own planes, but it is possible to rent planes without committing to purchasing one outright. On-demand charter, jet card programs, fixed hourly cards, and fractional ownerships are all viable options at the disposal of companies for which cash flow is a concern.
Perhaps the impact of business aviation can be best summarized by somebody who has experienced it all firsthand. In the NBAA Business Aviation NEXA report, Zane Lambert, flight department manager of Sanderson Farms, is a clear advocate of business aviation.
"The types of locations where we grew our business were in smaller communities with very limited or no airline service," began Lambert. "The community where our home office is has no airline service at all. It would be impossible for us to do business and grow our business without our aircraft."
"Sanderson Farms has always been very conservative, and we have a long-term, 15- to 20-year plan. The aircraft are assimilated into that plan. Just because the economy is down doesn’t mean we’re going to dump our aircraft. They are an indispensable part of how we do business."
Also, the No Plane No Gain organization, jointly founded by the NBAA and General Aviation Manufacturers Association, has as a core mission to be an advocate for business and the community value of business aviation. Through their site one can gain information on how business aviation supports local communities throughout the U.S.
It is nearly impossible to overstate the impact of business aviation in the current climate. From efficiency and speed to finances and reaching new territory, business aviation is a phenomenon that continues to create more business.